Things haven’t gone the way Tooele had hoped this season, but if you’re going to get your first region win of the season, it may as well be against the rival Grantsville Cowboys.
With the Buffaloes and Cowboys tied at 24 after a bucket from GHS senior forward Skyler Cloward, THS sophomore forward Tyler Lawrence put in a floater to take the lead right back. He then hit a free throw, and then junior forward Justin Pollmann took the spotlight.
Pollmann knocked in a 3-pointer to ignite the gymnasium, and after a GHS turnover, Pollmann took the ball on the fastbreak and threw down a one-handed dunk. On a later possession, Pollmann went up again, but this time GHS junior guard Devon Arellano fouled him hard. Pollmann put in both free throws to make the score 34-24, capping a personal 7-0 run.
He didn’t stop there. He drove down the baseline, looping around the GHS defenders for a layup to make the score 38-27. He hit five more free throws in that quarter, and he scored an inbound pass from senior forward Tyler Woodruff. Pollmann finished with 28 points and eight rebounds to lead the Buffs (3-15, 1-7).
Despite how difficult the season has been, the Buffaloes’ seemed reinvigorated after this win.
“It proves that we are a good team, and when we can play at our potential we’re one of the better teams,” Pollmann said. “We’ve just been struggling at playing as a team. It’s nice to pick up a win, especially against Grantsville. I have the most respect for Chris Baker and the Cowboys. I love them all, and I’m just happy we could get the win.”
Tooele coach Shawn Faux said he’s happy for his players to finally get a region win this season because he said they’re a good group of kids who deserved to have success.
“These kids have battled,” Faux said. “They haven’t quit. That’s the thing I love about them is they just want to continue to work. We had senior leadership step up.”
Faux said the team had a meeting a short time ago, and it cleared the air and helped the players come together. He said the players are now starting to see the fruits of that team meeting. Both Faux and Pollmann referenced last week’s Ben Lomond game, a close loss, as the point where the players started to believe in themselves.
“I’ve been waiting for this,” Faux said. “This group of kids are a bunch of great class acts. More than anything I want it for them.”
The Buffs wanted to put an emphasis on defense, and that’s what they got. They forced the Cowboys into turnovers and missed shots, including six steals and two blocks. Woodruff and Pollmann both had two steals, and Lawrence and senior guard Shaydan Walker each had one steal. Pollmann had the two blocks.
Much of the focus went to the 3-2 zone Tooele implemented, designed to take away passing lanes and attack Grantsville’s perimeter players.
“It all starts defensively,” Faux said. “We’ve been working really hard on that 3-2. Tonight was a really good payoff for it. Effort-wise and energy-wise it was exactly what we needed to do when you play in a 3-2 defense because it’s active.”
Pollmann said the Buffs picked up the defensive effort out on the floor and made it a priority.
“Our defense has really stepped up,” Pollman said. “We stepped up in the fourth quarter, and that’s what we need for the win. Our defense gave us easy offensive shots.”
On offense, Tooele focused on eliminating bad shots, including contested 3-pointers. Faux said the light finally came on with that in the third quarter to start working inside and getting layups.
“We get in a love-fest with these 3s,” he said. “We’re not the greatest 3-point shooting team, but what we can do really well is attack.”
The two teams were neck-and-neck throughout the first half and into the fourth quarter with Grantsville (6-12, 2-6) even trading the lead back-and-forth. Grantsville opened the game with a 7-0 lead thanks to two baskets by junior forward Devin Adams and then a 3-pointer by junior guard Dallin Williams. Pollmann scored a bucket, which was followed by two free throws from GHS senior center Braydon Hamatake. The Buffs went on an 8-0 run into the second quarter to create the back-and-forth tempo, and they took the lead into halftime at 16-13.
Grantsville grabbed the lead one last time in the third quarter after a layup by senior guard Caleb Edwards for a 19-18 score. Hamatake hit one free throw to make the score 20-18, and then Woodruff knocked in a jump shot, followed by him driving the baseline for a layup and a 22-20 lead. Grantsville never regained the lead after that play.
The Cowboys have now lost nine games in a row going back to their last win on Dec. 21, which was against Tooele. They’ll hit the road to battle Bear River on Wednesday. Tooele hits the road to battle Stansbury on Friday.